World Known Academician, Author and Poet Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee

BB Desk
BB Desk

Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee is an expert on American Literature. He is an Academician, Author and Poet of Global repute . In an exclusive interview with Heaven Mail and Buzzbytes he talks to Rameez Makhdoomi.Tell us about your early days ?My early days mean my childhood days which I passed in the idyllic environment listening to the songs of innocence all around me. Actually those were the days of late 1950s of the Post Independence days. My grandfather was an employee in the Metkalfe Press and later Metkalfe became the Governor General and my grandfather organized a labour movement . He was elected Member of Legislative Council in 1935. My Grandmother was married at the age of 9 but she used to teach the village girls and later she was appointed teacher in her own house and got a salary of 16 rupees in those days. It was a huge amount. I told this story to make you understand how I was brought up in an atmosphere where service to the people was the motto and our house was crowded by common people .I heard that during the 1942 Femine huge amount of Kichdi was cooked for the poor hungry people of the locality . I was leading a very simple life in my school and got two scholarships at Class V and Class VIII. It gave me a boost to my studies. At that time we were fond of magic and poetry . I recall when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and said , ‘One step for me is a Big leap for mankind.” I used to listen to Voice of America in our small radio which was broken because a thief stole it and finally left it on the ground. I wrote a letter to the VOA and got a good amount of pictures by post. I got respect from the madding crowd of my locality as a hero when I showed them the pictures of man setting foot on the moon. Today again I see India sending Chandrayaan Rover to the moon. So those are pretty old time and appears almost ancient age when we used to write poems and recite them in our school annual ceremonies. I used to bring out a hand written magazine where my school friends and my brothers even my parents also used to contribute. My maternal grandfather was also a renowned lawyer and he loved writing rhymes and we used to compete in rhyming words when during the summer I used to go to my maternal house. We used to pick green mango, black berries and palms and during the hailstorm we never used to be inside the house as we loved ice falling from the sky. Those days one man used to bring coloured icecream cart and sometimes gave us one or two free of cost. In the Durga puja time we used to get new cloth but all our shirts were from the same printed cloth. The tailor was a dumb person and made a great delay in delivering the dress. What pained me most he did not give any pockets to our shirts as it needs more cloth. Small lozenge and elephant ,horse biscuits were our highest junk food. I loved to read ghost and detective books of Byomkesh, Swapan Kumar, Satyajit Roy and Nihar Ranjan.Never watched film in any hall except when some talkies arranged shows. How was academic life like ?My academic life is normal like any Indian village boy. I used to read in Scottish Church College Kolkata and then in University of Kolkata . I did my M.Phil in British literature . Charles Dickens was my favourite . I compared Charles Dickens’s Great Expectation F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in my MPhil Dissertation. Later I did my Ph.D . on American Literature under Professor Laxmi Parasuram who was a renowned professor in American literature . Your interest in world of literature? As I specialized on Theodore Dreiser Studies , I got offer for doing post doctoral from the USA. But for my family problems I did not accept the offers. My guide was unsatisfied with me . That time Dr. Bhabatosh Chatterjee Sir Gurudas Banerjee Professr of Calcutta University advised me to go to ASRC Hyderabad and I was selected Scholar in Residence for three months. I explored American literature and completed American Civilization Course Prof Isaac Sequuerra was our inspiration for taking interest in American literature. At that Ime I was nominated and elected Executive Member in Indian Association of American Studies. Side by side I got inspiration from Dr. Deb Narayan Bandyopadhyay for doing work on Australian Studies. At one time I was editing two journals Voice of Indian English Writers and Literary Confluence the latter included in UGC Care list twice. During Covid they were discontinued and taken out of the UGC list . However we are trying to bring out a journal from Kaleidoscopic Indian Amerian Society Kanpur chapter. I visited twice to the USA in the pre-Covid days as International Visiting Professor to Fairleigh Dickinson University New Jersey and was engaged in a lot of activities and assignments. I was on the chair for many Internaitonal conferences in the USA and Provost and Dean of that university helped me a lot. That time I met in Princeton Unversity Dr. Talin Gregor who specialized in Persian Art and we intereacted deeply . Later after the covid was over I went to Virginia Commonwealth University and got my personal office for my assignment in the Hibb’s Hall where English literature and Creative writing were taught. I was given the Affiliate Faculty status and allowed to continue the position even in India . I along with Dr. Jill Blondin Associate Vice Provost Global Education Services of VCU opened a new Society KIAS ( Kaleidoscopic Indian American Society ) and we are now opening regional centers all over indian Higher education institutions . We are associated with universities and colleges Nagpur,Dharbhanga , Jhansi Delhi, Meerut Jaipur ,Kanpur, Madurai Annamalai Unviersity and Manipal University and others. A bit on your authored books ? I used to write in online and printed media since my college days. I had my poetic debut with Melodies and Maladies which was later developed into The Ballad of the Bleeding Bubbles (Cyberwit Allahabad) prefaced by Professor Elisabetta Marino of the University of Rome launched by Jayanta Mahapatra in Pondicherry . I also authored Six Feet Distance : Looking Back to Lockdown (AuthorHouse, Bloomington USA ) My best seller Oleander Blooms :A Bouquet of Oleander Poems of Love (Authors Press New Delhi) was introduced by Anthony Johae of UK and Dr. Daniela Rogobete of University f Craiova , Besides creative writing I have a lot of books on British and American Literature a few to mention Theodore Dreiser Going Beyond Naturalism ( INSC ) Francis Scott Fitzgerald:His Art and Vision (Patridge Singapore )praised by Emeritus Professor Bryant Mangan. I wrote on children literature and Renee Rudhagnee (Authors Press) Our Daughter , Our Princess (Authors Press New Delhi besides my Bengali books and writings in Assamese. My two books are in Press one with INSC Banglaore, Our Times Revisited and one with Collection of Stories and Poems of Ratan Bhattacharjee from Patridge to be published in 2025.Your favorite poetic Genre? I am a trilingual Poet and I usually wrote rhymed poems . A lot of sonnets I wrote and lyrics mostly. Recently I published Duet poem books one is Let That Fly from Notion Press. Poets from all over India and abroad joined me in writing romantic duets and most of them are researchers and academicians. Your favorite authors? Being one from Tagore’s native place I cannot but forget mentioning Tagore. In America during my visit to Fairleigh Dickinson University they invited me for a special lecture on Love Poetry of Tagore and Whitman. From my college days , I was fond of reading Lorca Neruda Frost, Iqbal , Subramania Bharti . In prose I loved Lamb, Hardy, D.H.Lawerence, Chekov Orwell James Joyce, Somerset Maugham and of course the dramas of Shakespeare, Shaw and Beckett Your inspirations?This is a very tough question My family loves literature and my 95 year old father still tries to rhyme words To be frank my daughter started her writing stories at the age of 11 and published her book which was reviewed in nearly all Indian newspapers and Television media.She got prize for writing in Suktara magazine. She writes in Ananadbazar Desh and Ei Samay and Unish Kuri . All these inspired me no less She read Chemistry and did her post doc studies in Chemistry from USA but her love for literature is an inspiration for me too.Besides, the newspapers inspire me to send poems , Many international editors love my poems and publish them. Former CM Chandra Babu Naidu felicitated me in the International Conference of multilingual poets. Poets all over the world and my co poets of the duets inspire me a lot. Social Media is my creative platform and earlier Orkut and after that in 2010 I joined Facebook only for posting poems with pictures. But it above all my family my wife and my daughter and my granddaughter who allowed me time to live in my own world of imagination. My wife Anjali sacrifices a lot for my writing and teaching . She is the greatest inspiring person for me. What are your hobbies ? Teaching for long 40 years in colleges and universities absorbed all my hobbies and time for relaxation. I was an Officer Commanding of NCC and I got two service medals as Army offcer after my training in Kamptee.I loved travelling with my cadets and did many National Integration camps and Trekking. Obbiously these were incorporated into my hobbies. I am foodie but not junk food. I love fresh fruits and new items of any place especially their local food when I visit the universities all over the world for lectures . I am a lover of nature especially the hills and the sea waves dashing against me . I love flowers and you know for my love of floral image in poetry , I am called by poetry critics ,’ Oleander Poet’ and so Kashmir is my first love especially for the tulips and Carnation Rose. How has USA experience been ?USA experience is synchronized with my teaching and research expertise. I being a teacher of American literature USA is known to me through reading. When I stayed over there for months with my wife during my three time visits we loved the cleanliness, punctuality, discipline in Amerian social life. The don’t waste time .though I felt suffocated sometimes by the overmuch restriction in daily routine. Life is so costly in America . I love processed food no less but I love the cherry picking and grapes garden. The cherry blossom at Wasshington and in Virginia seemed to me ever poetic . I love the friendly maturity of the students in the university . I heard about some racial discrimination in America . One colleague of mine from Brazil in VCU told me that she is called brown though she is perfectly of fair complexion. I sometimes used to travel in city bus in Virginia and saw the places where the Afro-American communities live. They are jolly vibrant and helped me a lot knowing I am from India. One thing dampened my vibes when I saw few exulting in America when we sent Chandrayan to the moon. There was a doubt in the eyes of the Americans.But my colleagues in Virgiina praised it a lot. I loved the journalism dept of VCU and the director of Robertson School and Humanities Research invited me to deliver special lecture on Structured Narrative in Journalism in India and America . In that event I saw American students were freely talking about democratic rights in America and India. This impressed me , this freedom of expression. Once people from all over the world used to come to India for knowledge – Megasthenes, Fa Hien, Al Biruni . Our Takshila , Nalanda have been centers of Knowledge. What is your message ? I am not a celebrity or a great man to give my message,. I can say my life is my message. We must remain creative all our life and even in our professional discharge of duties we must have a vision and an imaginative mindset. This inspires us to go forward . We have miles to go. That Frostian lines may be my message. The most important thing in life is to remain creative and creative. It keeps all of us young and energetic event to discharge our professional duties. In one of my poems I wrote ,” Poets Connect’ . Creativity connects us globally. —